Sun Up ’til Sun Down – 134 Fish, SKIFF Trips #13 & 14

This past Tuesday I fished back-to-back SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) program trips on Belton Lake with children from 3 Army families.

Deonte’ Tift with the day’s largest fish, a 19.5″ hybrid striper that struck a Pet Spoon fished at 14 feet at mid-morning.


Cameron Tift holds a white bass he brought in before the sun rose this morning.

As the sun set this evening, schools of white bass chasing schools of shad showed up in shallow water and gave Eli Tomes a shot a fish like this one.

Although hybrid striped bass were elusive tonight, the white bass surely cooperated for us.  Jacob Kent holds one of 84 fish he helped contribute to our tally.

At 6:30am, I met up with Mrs. Terri Tift and her two children, 17 year old Deonte’, and 9 year old Cameron.  The boys’ father, U.S. Army Sergeant Donald Tift, is currently assigned to Camp Casey, South Korea.  He has served in the military for over 11 years.  As Mrs. Tift left the boys in my care, I also welcomed along special guests Dave Hill and Manuel Pena, both of the Austin Fly FIshers — the non-profit organization which serves as the primary sponsor for the SKIFF program.  The pair had arranged for a donation of tackle boxes from Cabela’s in Buda, TX, and wanted to both hand-deliver these to me for distribution to kids on future trips, but also to personally present the first two boxes to Deonte’ and Cameron.

As many of my morning trips on Belton have gone of late, we had a strong start, a strong finish, and a bit of a lull in the middle.  We didn’t have lines in the water more than 2-3 minutes before the boys were hooked up with hybrid striped bass that devoured our downrigged Pet Spoons.  There was no topwater bite this morning as the moon phase has passed new and is now waxing toward full.  For variety’s sake we did a bit of shallow-water panfishing in the middle of the trip when the pelagic fish action died down.  By trip’s end we’d discovered numerous schools of small white bass feeding near the surface and once again broke out the downriggers to capitalize on these fish, catching singles and multiples using umbrella rigs.  After pulling the boat out of the water, we proudly flew the Cabela’s banner behind the boys as they received their new tackle boxes.

Fast forward 6 1/2 hours — at 5pm Mrs. Lisa Tomes and Mrs. Katrina Kent arrived at the boat ramp with kids in tow.  This evening I would fish with Jacob Kent, age 9, and Eli Tomes, age 7.  Eli’s mom, Lisa, also joined us.  She was planning ahead to Eli’s upcoming birthday and wanted to see how the trip was conducted with the possibility of doing a fishing birthday party for Eli in the future.

Jacob’s father, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Brian Kent is serving at Camp Casey, South Korea.  Eli’s dad, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryce Tomes is currently in the field.  Upon his return, he’ll head to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA, and upon his return from there, he’ll head to Korea in the new year.  CW2 Tomes has served for 17 years.

We experienced a bit of a rarity this evening in that our evening catch outpaced our morning catch.  Normally, the evening will produce approximately 70% of the morning’s catch.  As we launched, we’d only been motoring for a few minutes when we spotted surface action erupting before us.  Multiple schools of white bass were forcing shad to the surface and feeding upon them there.  This “clue” helped us solve the location mystery early in the trip, and allowed us to maximize our time spent catching fish instead of searching for them.  We boated 50 fish in our first 90 minutes and could have kept right on catching, but the novelty of the downrigging was wearing off, so, I thought a change of pace was in order.  We went up shallow after panfish, and stayed up shallow until around 7:40p when I suspected larger fish, possibly including hybrid stripers, might move up in the water column and into shallower water where we could capitalize on that migration.  Although the twilight bite wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped, it did afford us a shot at white bass that were, on average, larger than those we’d found schooling in open water earlier in the evening.

SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service, thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals, organizations, and companies from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date. SKIFF is open to children in elementary and middle school, as well as teens in high school.
AM TALLY = 50 FISH, all caught and released

PM TALLY = 84 FISH, all caught and released

TRIP TALLY = 134 FISH, all caught and released

Start Time: 6:30a

End Time: 10:30a

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 77F

Water Surface Temp: 87-88F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSE9-11

Sky Conditions: 20% cloud cover on a fair sky.

Note: Lake has stabilized with no water being released, and now stands at 594.09 above sea level, with 594.00 being full pool

Other: GT= 0



Start Time: 5:00p

End Time: 8:45p

Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 96F

Water Surface Temp: 87-88F

Wind Speed & Direction: SSE11-13

Sky Conditions: 20% cloud cover on a fair sky.

Note: Lake has stabilized with no water being released, and now stands at 594.09 above sea level, with 594.00 being full pool

Other: GT= 0



**Area 811/813 downrigging for 1st hour of the trip

**Area 1108 & 308 downrigging for 2nd hour of the trip

**Area 492 panfishing

**Area 1579/1580 downrigging for white bass late; popcorn white bass action visible



**Area 181/676 downrigging for first 90 minutes of the trip

**Area 493 & 166 panfishing

**Area 027/024 downrigging for white bass at twilight


Bob Maindelle

Owner, Holding the Line Guide Service

254.368.7411 (call or text)

Salado, TX